Nowadays it is so easy to get free or inexpensive ebooks, it's almost insane. I currently get emails from BookBub and SweetFreeBooks... Daily emails, each one offering anywhere from two to six free or low cost books. And these are just two of many ebook sites.
Like a food buffet, I was excited about the many choices available, and at first, downloaded anything that sounded interesting. But in grabbing these literary bargains, I found for the most part that as I continued to accumulate title after title, I lost track of what I had. And like those overloaded restuarant buffet plates that often go uneaten, my Kindle is loaded with books that remain unread.
In trying to put myself on a download diet, and consume more mindfully, I now check titles on Goodreads.com in search of decent reviews and ratings before I download new books. Oftentimes, however, my opinions don't align with the ratings given by readers on this site—they tend to very generous. Because I spend a lot of my time writing, I've become somewhat persnickety with what I'll spend time reading. Time painstakingly invested in writing has also led me to become good at pinpointing what I like and don't like about a book. When delving into a new novel, typically I look for these elements:
- A story that feels true/believable or at least suspends my belief.
- No blatant editing, grammatical or typographical issues.
- Writing that maintains a good flow.
- A story that makes me come away from it moved, changed or having learned something.
I read many genres of books, including love/romance stories, but as of late, I have gravitated towards New Adult stories. This is a genre typically written with protagonists in the 18-25 age bracket, as my book Saving Toby is. In my reading, I have come across some really solid writing, some interesting and well-developed characters and some truly compelling and riveting scenes. However, the books, almost across the board, fell short of the '5-Star' elements I look for.
First, I was surprised when I found that most of the popular 5-star reads in the New Adult genre are heavily steeped in erotica... Wow, there is a voracious appetite for steamy content!
But, book after book, I was bothered by a blatant lack of well-orchestrated story telling. I'm talking the basic elements of plot, climax and resolution.
Many of these highly enjoyed books (some boasting thousands of reviews) were successful in pulling the reader in and getting us interested in the characters, but always, somewhere, fell flat in the construction. When a story has faulty construction, it has a direct effect on the believability factor. I might find these reads enjoyable, but they usually hit my review list with a 3-star rating. (I Liked It)
Apparently when it comes to New Adult genre, readers tend to be more generous with their stars. If the characters are compelling, and the sex hot, they seem to overlook many flaws and dole out stars freely.
This makes me scratch my head. Weren't they disappointed when that disturbing question/problem was never answered? Or the couple resolved their differences too quickly? Or the end dragged on ... forever?
Okay, I'll stop my bellyaching now and try to take something away from this.
Two important writing/marketing lessons that I have learned from this:
1. Literary merit or not, people will enjoy what they enjoy.
2. Sexy bad boys are the key to a high ratings. (lol)
What are your requirements of a 5-star read?
I welcome reader comments on this.
Image from http://german.fansshare.com/